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Control Freaks

September 20, 2018

Let’s talk about your need for control. Maybe you can be classified as a “control freak”.  These are people that want, or need, to feel in control of everything around them.  This can be justified as them wanting the best for those around them.  I see this with mom’s all the time. And with dad’s in traffic.   


This is also a symptom of inflexibility of thought and a low tolerance for ambiguity.  Certain people just have a strong opinion on how things should be, and any deviation from that version is wrong and frustrating.  They become unnecessarily upset.  This stresses the body, puts them in a poor emotional state, and makes them no fun to be around.  


In coaching we discuss this issue in terms of your Locus of Control.  It is a term coined by Julian Rotter in 1954.  It considers the idea that people tend to either believe that control lives internally (within them) or externally (with others or the situation). 


While some people have wholly internal or external locus of control, most live within some balance between the two.  This can look like someone having a high level of internal locus in their home life, and a high level of external locus in their work life.  At home this person believes in their ability to influence others and control themselves.  On the other hand, at work they may feel much less control and influence.  They may even feel that others have control over them so they have no choice but to obey. 



Which one is correct?  Should I be more internal or external focused?  


Those are actually not the right questions to be asking.  We need to ask, which one am I? Where do I really believe and feel my locus of control?  From there we can then address where you need to go to find the balance that is right for you.  


It starts with understanding where your control is useful and where it will just frustrate.  


THE WORLD- this is the weather, politics, war, religion, peace, and on and on.  These are areas of life that have a no real influence and impact on our lives.  And our ability to control them are exactly equal to zero.  

Have you ever been around that person that can get so worked up about politics and world events?  Are they fun to be around?  Do they offer any viable solutions to the problems they are ranting on about?  Are you that person?


It is fine to have an opinion about all of that.  But understand you have no control over any of that.  And more importantly, you have no control over how your friends and family feel about these issues.  If they are nodding in agreement, it is probably just to shut you up.


MY ENVIRONMENT - this is your friends, family, work, the economy, and society.  You will have more influence in this sphere than in the world.  Influence is all you will have.  You cannot control any of these.  But you can be controlled by them if you let yourself.  People that do this tend to be fatalistic, believing that things just happen to them out of their control.  They see life as just happening to them so they are very passive and accepting.  Success in anything is attributed to luck, not their own skills or talent.  These can be hard people to be around.  And it can be even harder to be one of these people when you want to make a change or improve your life in any area. 


ME - this my body, my attitude, and my choices.  This is the only thing you can control.  You can modify and change any of these three areas if you so desire.  Some are harder than others.  What is amazing is how little effort and time people will spend in this area, and how much time and effort they will apply to the aforementioned areas.  Have you ever met that person who clearly shows no control over their own decisions (about what they eat, if they smoke, how much they exercise, constantly making unhealthy choices) yet they want to control you.  


People are unhappy when they do not feel control.  This human need for control is so ingrained and important that we will lie to ourselves about the amount of control we have in the world and our environment.  And their lies the problem.  We will become irritable and irrational when we confronted with the reality that we actually do not have any control in those areas.  


If you are frustrated at work, if rush hour traffic has you loosing your mind, if you get super pissed when the line at Starbuck’s is slow, you need to examine and address your Locus of Control.


“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

-Reinhold Niebuhr


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